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Translated by Lilian Friedberg © 2005
(I don’t know I don’t know. Just stick on one of those knit stocking caps with a tassel on top, the kind my dad used to wear with his old overalls while building our little single-family home. Never seen anything uglier than that. I don’t know what kind of crime you’d have to commit or what kind of sentence you’d have to get to get stuck wearing something that ugly on your head. Cut off a knit stocking, tie it off at the top to form a sort of pompom, and stick it on your head. That’s it.)
(Special thanks to Aeschylus and his “Persians,” translated into German by Oskar Werner. May as well throw in a pinch of Nietzsche, if you like. But I didn’t write the rest of it either. It’s not exactly the cat’s pajamas–more the product of a press that’s all dressed up like an emperor with no new clothes, a “product of bad parenting” as the German idiom goes.)
Already the sun is breaking through, through and through, the sun, first messenger of doom, to the Lord what’s his name again, everybody knows his name, already the army is breaking into the city, the army, mighty in mass but not in mettle, breaking its way through and through, the army, throttling through the hungry masses, thirsty masses, through the threat-filled city of people in its path, a force far too massive, too many in number, as evil as its deeds may be, its tolerance level is no small match, the city, very much at home, lying there in the desert, its inhabitants long since kiln-fired to an army of clay. How now, after all this, how on Earth will we ever make it up to the people of Babylon? No matter what you say to them, all they can do is cry out for water, for water, for water, for food, for food. My son, my son, my two sons, my three sons, my four sons. All gone. All gone. Best would be both: food and water. Meals ready-to-eat, come on, get ‘em off the trucks, pick up the pace please, hurry it up before the people of this city, absent the sprays of water to cool their heads, start cracking skulls on the Lord’s chosen few and burst open a whole world of feelings known only to us only to us in the West and a whole wave of hatred known only to them. We may be thirsty, too, yes sir, but at least we aren’t hate mongers, no sir, which doesn’t mean we don’t have feelings–we do. But at least we don’t let them show. We are not totally void of emotion, but what’s the point of letting your feelings show? Where do they come from, where do they go? Where do they lead? They lead us to liberate the people. So why are they all up in arms about it? They don’t want to be free? Or only to be free on the condition that they also be understood? Huh? What? Whatever is said, it’s always too much or too little. It would be naive to expect that you could say all that you have to say in every word you say. So it’s best not to say anything for once. It’s better that way. We always speak in hope of being understood, and by people who wish us well–otherwise, there would be nothing to say to the cameras and microphones. We hide what is foreign to us. We only let others know what we want them to think about us, we never say what we are really thinking. Huh? What? They don’t want to be understood? So why do we bother? It’s all the same to us. We’ll do whatever we want anyway. No, we don’t always get to do whatever we want. But it’s not like we get all up in arms over it. We’re real go-getters! We just go in and grab whatever we want and are robbed of our senses whenever we don’t get it. So where did all that oil go, unspent? Burning. Burning. Explosives set round the rigs where the oil wells up, where it goes up in flames and goes to waste. It’s impossible to imagine, and hard to foresee. And anyone who managed to spare himself from drowning in that sea of salt, we’ll at least manage to kill him. You can set fire to our homes, set fire to our icons, just keep your fires off our oil and our television sets, these are ours to keep, our altar—one that cannot disappear without a trace, for it is itself the trace! The tracer bullets that let us see in the dark. Let us see in the dark the way lightning strikes straight into the hailstorm of enemy fire. Oh yeah, and of course, here’s our depleted uranium stockpile, I was just looking for that because we are definitely going to need it. Let me explain why in simple terms: a missile draws energy from its from velocity and mass. It can’t just grab a Snickers bar, right. It can’t have an energy bar or a chocolate Easter egg as a pick-me-up, can’t refuel depleted energy that way, not the missile. How lucky for the missile—it doesn’t need food and it can’t eat. Lucky for the missile, but not for us: because this is precisely the point where its luck begins and ours runs out. The guns on the Humvees are small in diameter, barely 12 cm, see, so how the hell are we going get a decent hit out of that? Our problem is that we need to develop a high impact on a small target, and uranium is high in density, that’s its problem. And it becomes our problem, too, because it might make us sick as well. In light of this war, I guess you could call that a boon for us, not a boondoggle. They’re no longer content with dashing together the bronze prows of their cumbersome seafaring galleys. But the uranium, now that’s right on target! As right on target as what this gentlemen just told us. The supply lines are up and running, but this guy doesn’t have to do any running himself. Still, I can’t get it out of my head: Have the feelings really all died, every last one of them? Because you witnessed so much horror and suffering, or what or why? Every last one? So you did have some, and the others don’t have any at all? Unbelievable! No, I can’t believe it, they are still alive, aren’t they? No, I guess they aren’t. They are dead, better believe it. Maybe they’ve just never felt any of these emotions personally. Those who believe in God. But it’s not enough for them. They’re out to free the fatherland. But they can’t because we alone resist the temptation that would only hold us back, and we question religion and we question the stones and we question the sand and we question the water, we alone know God and have realized that we want nothing to do with Him, we who can lead no one to temptation, we who are tempted by images alone. As soon as we walk in the door to the house, the first thing we do is turn on the tube. Seductive eyewash. The show must go on. And it does. Immediately. They never leave us without a trace, these images of our deity that we see, the ones only we can see there on the glowing screen. So we’ll just march in there and strip these people of their faith, and we’ll finally force these icons of ours down their throats, and that’ll be it. All’s well that ends well. Then these people will be washed up once and for all, these people who place no faith in the primacy of the individual, for any people that does not revolve around individual people cannot exist as a people. But they know who God is, God is what they know. And that’s the main thing. They don’t know anyone else, they don’t love anyone else, but they know who God is, God is what they know. They are strangers to emotion, but they know who some God is, God is who they claim to know. That’s what they say. And they know that this God is theirs. Well, they’re about to see our true colors. How much you want to bet they’ll soon make us into their Gods? No? Naw, I guess they won’t. Use it or lose it. Breaking through, through and through, all the King’s men menacing the cities, here they come, all the names we know, names we know and names we don’t, no matter, no matter whether it’s Arabia or whatever it’s called, it’s just teeming with names, names that everyone knows, not a name no one knows, not even someone who doesn’t know a single person in the world, Babylon is bursting with her share of blooming color and she’s not about to take it back. And the kingpins, commanders in chief, wearing their names on their sleeves, are carrying a heavy load with their golden chariots, it’s the cars, after all, that carry them, not the other way around, they just follow our vehicles around in their fuel trucks, and sometimes we get killed in the process. Thanks all the same, we’ll gladly, gladly drink from the golden gallon of gas, use it to water the flowery fraternal fruits of men, men who pulled out and led us into Babylonian lands. What was I about to say? Oh. Anyone who threatens his neighbors is more fascinated by pride than by the fact that everyone is equal. Yeah. That’s a fact. Really. That’s why we’re finding them everywhere now, wherever they are, everywhere within reach of the King’s stringent edict. Maybe there are some who will flee them, but they’ll be followed by many more. The British folk, the American folk, for example, who set out on their crusades. They’re the ones, hording the riches in their gold-gilded mansions. But of course they want even more. They always want even more. If you got, you got it. If you got it, flaunt it. But not everyone who wants to will get some. Those who get some will not get it from the molly-coddled masses, and that’s why they’ll get some. Winner takes all. Do you know the one I’m talking about? Have you ever heard the name of that corporation, Halliburton, and the name Cheney, the High Almighty Lord, scion of so-and-so or such-and-such, I know not what, son of a mother, I suppose, and ever since birth he’s been battling the whirlwinds of wishy-washy emotion. Dick Cheney. But his feelings won’t win. Halliburton will win, the corporation that can even build cages in Cuba, well, even I could manage to build a cage if I had to, but it would barely be strong enough to contain a rabbit, if that; they managed to build Corpus Christi in Texas, too. And the place lives up to its name! He’s just going to rebuild everything, Lord of the Energy Industry, Lord Chairman of the Board, Lord of the Cooked Books, Lord of Cronyism. But Cronyism is an Arab thing. You can bet your bottom dollar on it: this company will win no matter who actually wins. Wait a minute, what about the Brits—those brave little lads who laid into that strange flesh, dug into it, worked it over, and of course, the favor was returned, you really hate to leave yourself in anyone’s debt, but sometimes there’s no way around it. They just hauled their asses on in there, like a walking mirage of the avenger incarnate, into a foreign land, where many of them bit the dust in the sands, and now you’re saying they’re not going to get anything out of it? Well. I told you so. They’ve got to get their contracts, and none too few. They haven’t gotten any yet. But they’re still negotiating hard. The construction companies will come running after the spectacular real estate, and the sisters, two of a kind. They’ll come running, one after the other, with strict rules to determine who’s first in line. I told you so. They landed the deals, founded the fatherlands—by luck of the draw—no, it wasn’t luck, it was the law of the land, connections, lobbies, family ties, tradition, who gives a hoot how, at any rate, it was the first in line who got the fattest contracts. The order form is already blowing like a wind in the willow, but not a weeping one. First come, first served. Bush and Blair arguing with each other in the English language at the summer retreat, Camp David, the little guy with the slingshot, you know the one I mean, and the Goliath, Leviathan, sacrifices to the demon, deliver us from disaster and doom, there’s no way around it, what was I about to say, never mind, the British corporations haven’t yet got their hands in the game, but Blair, of course, wants to get his fair share. That much is clear. He flew into a rage when he first heard about the Halliburton deal, but Bush subdued him, now he spans them all before his chariot, yokes the blokes in, slinging his harness around their neck, but the corporate contracts are lined up straight as the number one, with plenty of zeros behind it, yeah, its not exactly a yoke, only for his buddies, and that’s the kind of bling they’re all too happy to have draped around their necks, proud as peacocks—they bite their tongues, turn on a dime at the slightest tug of the reins at the bit, as long as the contracts keep coming. They bite their tongues. And we bite ours too. If they can do it, so can we. But Cheney does not bite his tongue. He doesn’t need to. He’s the man. What he says goes. Now there he goes again, talking. But he doesn’t need to, the main thing is he’s still closer to the starting profit than near to the end. How’s the war going? It’s still closer to the starting point than it is near an end. Birds of a feather flock together. Yeah. Dick Cheney. He and his clan will do the rebuilding. To the tune of 100 billion dollaros, counting the money day in and day out, while time just keeps on ticking.
From Elfriede Jelinek Homepage – http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/elfriede/
2007 April 19